Because of its ability to harden platinum and palladium, ruthenium is used in platinum and palladium alloys to make wear-resistant electrical contacts. In this application, only thin plated films are used to achieve the necessary wear-resistance. Because of its lower cost and similar properties compared to rhodium,  the use as plating material for electric contacts is one of the major applications. The thin coatings are either applied by electroplating or sputtering. Ruthenium dioxide and lead and bismuth ruthenates are used in thick-film chip resistors. These two electronic applications account for 50% of the ruthenium consumption
Ruthenium price
7 years

Supply and demand

Soaring demand for hard disk storage drives caused the ruthenium price to break through the $700/oz mark for the first time ever. That’s because ruthenium is a key coating material in the manufacture of hard drives and thanks to a change from “longitudinal magnetic recording” to “perpendicular magnetic recording” the thickness of ruthenium coatings has doubled. Total use of ruthenium will rise to a record peak of 1.34 million oz in 2007 from 1.29 million in 2006, according to Johnson Matthey.

South African platinum miners, particularly those exposed to UG2 reefs where ruthenium is most plentiful, Lonmin (with 75% of operations exposed to UG2), Implats and Angloplats (50%) and Northam (35%), are the main suppliers. (Source: MiningMx)

Roughly 12 tonnes of ruthenium is mined each year with world reserves estimated as 5,000 tonnes. The composition of the mined platinum group metal (PGM) mixtures varies in a wide range depending on the geochemical formation. For example, the PGMs mined in South Africa contain on average 11% ruthenium while the PGMs mined in the former USSR contain only 2% based on research dating from 1992.